Will the real Kermit the Frog please hop up?

Muppets Most Wanted opens in theatres this week and like any lifelong Muppet fan this news has me cheering and waving my noodly arms in the air. We can see from the trailers that the new film includes a mysterious master criminal who looks exactly like Kermit and who impersonates the beloved character taking control of the Muppets while leaving the genuine Kermit to rot in jail. For some reason I just love it when an impostor takes over Kermit’s identity. Let’s take a quick look at some of the times it’s happened before:

• Impersonated by technology. Remember the robot duplicate of Kermit with the big wind-up key in his back? This clanking monstrosity turned up in episode 104 (guest starring Ruth Buzzi) of The Muppet Show . He puts the moves on Miss Piggy who is initially delighted but when RoboFrog starts whispering “sweet nothings” in her ear he apparently goes too far and offends the swine’s delicate (?) sensibilities. Piggy goes into a martial arts rage beating up an innocent Kermit for the crimes of his android double.

Why did a gigantic wind-up key become shorthand for “robot” in the first place? I’ve never seen an actual humanoid wind-up toy with a key in its back and neither have you (probably). Still this is one trope I’d like to see come back. Imagine if “David” from Prometheus (2012) had a big metal key sticking out of his back the entire film and the other characters had to wind him up every few minutes.

• Impersonated by an aspiring actor. The Steve Martin episode of The Muppet Show (ep. 208) was unique. Kermit announces that the show is cancelled as the theatre is being used to audition new talent that night. The audience is sent home and we see the auditions rather than the show itself. There’s no canned laughter in this episode just real laughter from the small handful of puppeteers and crew members present on set as Steve Martin does his thing.

Kermit seems quite positive about the aspiring performers until “Lenny the Lizard” turns up hoping for the job of emcee. He looks a bit like Kermit. He sounds a bit like Kermit. Kermit is not amused by this pretender to the throne and promptly boots him off the stage.

This raises questions. Why is Kermit so insecure? Come to think it why does Kermit have that lizard-like frill around his neck? That’s not very frog-like. Is Kermit secretly a lizard and Lenny is a long-lost relative attempting an ill-advised reunion only to be horribly rejected in public?

• Impersonated by swine. In the Cloris Leachman episode (224) The Muppet Show gets taken over by pigs. It’s a full-on race war! Kermit Fozzie and Gonzo get locked in the boiler room while “Kermit the Pig” introduces several new pork-heavy acts. Miss Piggy who wasn’t part of the revolution vows to stay by Kermit’s side but she forgets her promise when the new lineup presents her with several juicy roles. Gonzo is left to tunnel to freedom with a teaspoon.

• Impersonated by a “Moopet.” In the film The Muppets (2011) an out-of-work Fozzie joins a Muppet tribute band called “The Moopets” complete with “Kermoot the Frog.”

• Impersonated by an alien shape-shifter. On the planet Koozebane in The Muppet Show roving reporter Kermit interviews “the Phoob” a resourceful beast who has learned to evolve at a hyper-accelerated pace (ep. 205). Before our eyes he transforms into a Kermit look-alike complete with trench coat and microphone and the two Kermits have an undignified slap-fight pausing long enough to “sign off” to the editor.

Weird fauna abounds on Koozebane. In an earlier episode Kermit watched some Koozebanian creatures have sex and produce offspring. That happened. And it was hilarious.

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